Harry Cannon’s Pipe Dreams – “The Ballad of Harry Cannon” (Reachground)July 11, 2010
So today I was going to post the credits theme from You Have to Burn the Rope but upon discovering the website of the Swedish composer Henrik Nåmark (aka Reachground), his latest piece, “The Ballad of Harry Cannon“, came up at the top. Because I was drawn to the characters, I gave the song a try and liked it so much I checked out the game – the song plays with the same careless irony of “Now You’re a Hero” and the same guitar, and it’s original, comedic material perfect if you’re a fan of YHTBTB coupled with a latin beat reminiscent of “Hotel California”. A nice, rather somber yet ironic. Now if only the game were as good as the song. Harry Cannon’s Pipe Dreams, is a one-button game where you have to navigate a fly through a narrow pipe, avoiding spiders and splatting into the walls. Your only control is to press space, up, or click the mouse to cause Harry to fly up or release to let him fall down. While the game has fun character design and a fantastic soundtrack, it is far too difficult to be worth playing through (I gave up at level 4) and I really think it’s only an advergame for a full-length Nokia game they will release (I also couldn’t find anyone who managed to actually beat the game in the comments). I leave Harry’s ultimate end up to fate.
What interests me most about this song is not necessarily the composition (which is a nice guitar piece) or the lyrics (which is reminiscent of They Might Be Giants) but what it promises for narrative. Essentially, if the game was played perfectly, you would hear the entire song played out from start to finish through a single run (about 6 minutes). The trouble is, the game is just too damn hard to get anywhere decent (I mean, why the hell does a fly splat when he hits the wall?). Lyrically, the game reflects some of this discontent (“Do you see the scale of Harry’s problems, / the mountain he must climb?”). As a result, I only played the game until the end of the song, at which point it just became too frustrating to continue.
Personally, I think this type of composition opens up new possibilities for game audio and game narration through music (especially lyrics). Why not create a game that’s a bit easier and plays out over the course of a lyrical melody? This type of composition is already sort of done in modern auto-scrolling shooters such as Thunder Force in which the level length is finite and the song is composed to match. For a game such as Harry Cannon, it might work better if the song were chopped into smaller bits that could be mixed and cued depending on the situation. This has already been done with Subservient Chicken and should be doable with a game.